...How do you spot and extinguish the small fires that, left smoldering,
can eventually lead to burnout? What do you do if you already feel
fried? The best approach, of course, is to take preventative action before burnout is upon you.
If Mom is still living in her original home, with no one to look in on
her regularly, she may be at a turning point. Many people choose to
start getting help from in-home care agencies,
since Mom can stay in her home longer with this help. Others feel it's
time for Mom to move to assisted living. There are several things for
you and your mom to look at while you consider the options.
Dear Carol: After my mother-in-law
had a stroke, she developed mild dementia. My husband and I were able to take care
of her needs until recently, but because of her deteriorating health she has
been admitted to a facility near our home. She is really very content. This
should be a cause to celebrate, but since her admission my husband has become
overwhelmed and stubborn. He neglects the
paperwork that he needs to do for his mother’s care until it piles up and we
get phone calls that could threaten her stay at the nursing home. I’ve
repeatedly told him that I’ll help with the paperwork, but he won’t allow me to
a family disease. Not only does it affect the person with the diagnosis, it
affects the spouse, adult children and even the grandchildren. My dad didn’t
have Alzheimer’s, but he developed a severe post-surgical dementia, so I’ve got
first-hand knowledge about how traumatic it is for grandchildren to witness
their grandparent’s cognitive decline.
children’s books are one way to help. I reviewed Still My Grandma and What's Happening to Grandpa?a couple
of years ago. Both are informative, comforting books that can help young
children understand that their grandparent is still their grandparent even
though he or she has changed. They also let the child know that he or she isn’t
I'll tell you up front that I'm not good with hair. For the most part,
I'm a minimalist. Alice had perms, but her hair still needed washing and
a daily curling to arrange it nicely. Over time, and with lots of humor
thrown in, I did learn a few things.
Dear Carol: My
mother is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Dad is her primary caregiver and
it’s wearing him out. He can’t sleep because she doesn’t sleep. He’s worried
about her wandering even though the house is secure. My siblings and I try to
help, but we are all out of town and have jobs and families. Dad refuses to
consider putting Mom in assisted living, yet he can’t continue life as he’s
living it, either. We’re all worried sick that he’ll have a stroke or something
while he’s trying to provide all of Mom’s care. How do we convince him to do
things differently? – Tom
Dear Tom: Your
parents vowed to care for each other until “death do us part.” Sometimes,
people get so caught up in caregiving they feel that providing all of the
spousal care personally is the only way to honor their vow. This is
unfortunate, because in many of these situations, if the well spouse hires help
to reduce the intense strain of constant caregiving, he or she can actually
provide more relaxed, soothing emotional care for the loved one,
Caring for our aging loved ones can be exhausting, frustrating, demanding and time consuming. Since November marks National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’re honoring Alzheimer’s caregivers, but November is also National Caregiver’s Month. Thanksgiving, as another November holiday, reminds
me to think of ways that caregiving, tough as it can be, also offers
caregivers a time to note the special blessings we’ve received when we
are open to recognizing the gifts. After all, caring for one another is,
in my view, one of the answers to “why are we here.
Dear Carol: My
grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease, so my mom shows me your column a lot. I
love Gramps and would never want to hurt him, but sometimes he says and does
things that are funny, even though he can’t help it. Also, when I help him sometimes
things go wrong, but it ends up being funny because no one gets hurt. I’m never disrespectful to him, but if I tell
friends about something he did like when he told my aunt to her face that she
was too fat, my mom gets mad. She says I shouldn’t laugh at him. I’m not really
laughing at Gramps. I’m just telling a friend about a funny situation. Is this disrespectful?
Dear Jody: We all
need humor, particularly during hard times. You aren’t laughing at your
grandfather, you are laughing at the way his disease makes him blurt out words
that otherwise would be filtered or behave in ways that can be amusing. It’s a
matter of being clear to your friend that you’re laughing at the situation, not
at your grandfather.
Our heart's desire is to provide a way for our aging parents to enjoy
the holidays, but their circumstances can make that challenging. First
and foremost, however, remember that it's your presence that is the most
important thing. That, and helping your parents to feel included in
whatever way they can participate.
Everyone has their own personal checklist for finding good housing for
their elderly parent. We want them safe, well cared for and happy. Happy
depends a great deal on the individual, but safe and well cared for
should be part of the bargain. So, what do you look for when you tour a
Your mom has fallen in her
home and you’re now sitting with her in the hospital. Nothing is broken, they
said, but she suffered a back injury they want to monitor. They’d like to keep
her in the hospital for observation. You say sure, why not? She stays several
days and then is released to a rehab facility for follow-up care.Medicare pays for the first
20 days a patient is in a rehab facility only if the patient is admitted and
remains in the hospital for three days prior to treatment. But, according to
AAPR, hospitals are increasingly leaving Medicare hospital patients “under
observation” without officially admitting them.
Elders can have an especially hard time with the holiday season. While
aging and maturity can bring the wisdom of years for many people, there
are inevitable losses
that come to even the most healthy individuals. Many of these losses
are emotional and social in nature. Spouses become ill or die. Other
aging relatives and friends become seriously ill, or die. Neighborhoods
change, often leaving even those well enough to remain in their own
homes feeling friendless and isolated. The holidays can bring this
isolation and a feeling of loneliness to a head.
Have you ever entered someone's home and felt good things about it even
if it's cluttered or decorated in a way you find tacky? Most of us have
done so. We find that a home can have an aura of happiness or lightness
about it and we feel comfortable. Conversely, have you walked into a
different home, yet felt the air was heavy and burdensome? Perhaps
unhappiness or even abuse has affected the very walls of the home.
Anyway, there's often something in a home's atmosphere that can affect
us even before we really know the occupants.
...Prior to your dad's stroke and your mom's dementia,
the busy season described above would be a "normal" Christmas for you
and your family – rushed but still mostly pleasant. You still would have
had the emotional reserves to enjoy the cuteness of your son's solo in
his program, and the humor and time to write individual notes in your
cards to friends.
Dear Carol: How do
you gently begin to supervise a parent’s health? Our mother is widowed now and
74-years-old. She took care of our dad who had dementia and she seemed to do
okay for awhile after he died. But now she frequently forgets her medications doubles
them up, which she has admitted, and she frequently mixes up names and places.
My nephew lives with her and he’s had to take her to the emergency room a few
times because of kitchen accidents and one bad fall. We don’t want to be hasty
in taking over her health care, but we are afraid for her. She insists she
doesn’t need to have a checkup for cognitive issues. - Joanne
November is both National Alzheimer’s Awareness
Month and National Family Caregivers Month. To me, celebrating family caregivers
and dementia awareness together is appropriate.Providing care to any
vulnerable individual can bring untold rewards, especially when the care
receiver is someone we love. Long-term caregiving can be physically and
mentally exhausting, and frequently frustrating, as well.
...My mom was a supreme example. She fell in her apartment—often more than
once a week. She had memory problems. She was taken advantage of by
telemarketers. She had digestive issues. However, when I took her to her
doctor, what I called her "hostess personality" took over. While she
may have complained of pain in the car during our drive, the minute she
had a chance to tell her doctor how terrible she felt she was perkiness
...When my dad first needed nursing home care, I was worried about
every little detail of his care. He was so very vulnerable. Even though,
because my uncle was a resident of the same home I knew the staff well,
fear that Dad would suffer from not having every attention I could give
him gripped me for the first weeks. Eventually, I had to learn to detach a little. I knew it was
painful and impractical for me to be so wrapped up in each detail of his
life. The facility was excellent. Dad was as okay as he could be. He
had daily attention from multiple family members. What more could I do?
Many of us start our caregiving career by assisting an elder in his or
her home, or we have a spouse who declines and we become the default
caregiver in our own home. This care expands to a point where we need
some type of respite, often in the form of in-home care agency help.
Eventually, the move to assisted living or even a nursing home may
become necessary for everyone's health and wellbeing. Whatever happens,
we remain caregivers. Many of us continue to see our care receiver
daily. Most of us continue to be involved as advocates and support
throughout the time of need. When our loving attention and care is no
longer needed, we can, indeed, feel lost.
We needn't have our loved ones living with us to find our friends have
floated off into the ether. None of my elders lived in my home with me
but my friends knew how busy I was with all of my elders' care needs.
Friends and colleagues would ask me how I was doing and I'd give them a
short report, knowing that they really didn't want to know the lengthy
details. They were basically being polite.
It is especially important for seniors to get the right vitamins
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